Books like The Nightingale prove to me that the majority of how well-received a book will be comes from its ending. And boy howdy(!) did this book have a fantastic ending.
Despite their differences, sisters Viann and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Viann finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength is tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.
1) WWII, 2) sisters, 3) France
I will briefly summarize the story, knowing full-well you can read a more elaborate description on Goodreads: two French sisters living in France during World War II. The story explores their roles in the war while detailing the intricacies of their family that has already been devastated by World War I.
I am going to take a page of Cait Grace’s reviews on Goodreads and boil this down to likes (of which there are a million) and dislikes (of which there are few).
- I LOVE WWII BOOKS!
- Vianne and Isabelle are richly developed characters. I felt like they could have just walked off the page. I loved the whole of them and every one of their (almost always, see dislikes) believable flaws.
- I loved Isabelle’s resilience, her determination to do more, and her very real feelings about her family.
- Vianne’s story was definitely my favorite. The book is initially a story about the Nightingale, but I love that Vianne’s role in the war blossoms as the story unfolds. She becomes an unsung hero.
- The story centering on occupied France was a new WWII perspective for me. Go figure: their story was just as tragic and painful to read as the other countries’ are.
- The details of the day-to-day life in occupied France was fascinating (and horribly sad).
- Captain Beck. I wish there were more of him.
- The surprising role Vianne and Isabelle’s father plays.
- THE ENDING. Duh. I know some people say they predicted it, but I hella didn’t and was totally blind-sided (in a I’m going to give Kristin Hannah a slow cap for this good kind of way.)
- I will admit that you have to push yourself a little in the beginning to get into things. It’s beautiful and interesting while you’re initially reading it, it’s just not quite gripping (yet).
- Sometimes I felt that Isabelle’s stubbornness was a little unbelievable. She would do things that put her, her sister, and her niece at great risk. It seemed incongruent that such an intelligent insurgent could behave so stupidly.
- I did feel as though the ending was a bit rushed (didn’t help that I read the last ¼ of the book in one sitting). You’ve only gone through 1-2 years of the war when you’re nearly two thirds done, and then suddenly the war is over.
I really could go on and on about the things I loved, but it’s one of those books you just have to bite into and taste for yourself. If you’ve started it and aren’t feeling where all the hype is coming from, force yourself to keep pushing through, because it will be so worth it in the end!
Have you read this? If so, what were your thoughts? Did you guess the ending? Have you read other WWII books that you love? Spill the beans in the comment section below!